Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take up with Iran the issue of 16 fishermen from Tamil Nadu languishing in jail in that country since their arrest last December.

The plight of the fishermen, belonging to Ramanathapuram, Nagapattinam and Kanyakumari districts, came to her notice when their families submitted a petition on July 24, Ms. Jayalalithaa said in a letter to Dr. Singh on Saturday,.

The detained fishermen were the sole breadwinners of their families, and were engaged as contract labourers in fishing boats by a private company based in Saudi Arabia.

In the course of their work, they ventured into Iranian waters and were arrested. Without access to legal aid, they were tried and convicted by an Iranian court to undergo six months imprisonment and pay a fine of $ 5,750 each, she said.

“The fishermen continued to languish in jail, even after serving the term, for want of resources to pay the fine. They had not even been able to contact the Indian Embassy,” Ms.Jayalalithaa said.

The Embassy, she said, did not make effort either to establish contact with them or provide legal assistance.

It also did not put any pressure on the employer company to secure their release by settling the fine amount.

Therefore, the Prime Minister should take up the matter through diplomatic channels to secure the immediate release and repatriation of the 16 fishermen from the State, Ms. Jayalalithaa sought.

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